0253 Zulu– Romanov’s hotline message is summarized for President Reagan and his advisers in the Situation Room by the MOLINK duty officer. The general secretary explains that a direct response to the ‘unprovoked NATO nuclear attack on a Soviet military base in the GDR’ will be launched within minutes. He does not understand the purpose behind NATO’s earlier strike but proposes an immediate ceasefire. Romanov’s message then warns that any further use of nuclear weapons by NATO will bring on an ‘escalatory retaliation against US forces outside of the European theater.’
0257 Zulu– A single SS-21 Scarab-a is launched from 20th Guards Army’s rear area near the Inner-German Border. Three minutes later a single 45 kt warhead airbursts 2000 meters near the I NL Corps rear area west of Schwienau.
0305 Zulu– After receiving confirmation that the attack was successful, General Secretary Romanov starts the Politburo meeting.
0310 Zulu- The meeting in the White House continues. After learning of the tactical nuclear attack against I NL Corps, President Reagan wants to establish a conference with other NATO leaders. The Joint Chiefs, however, along with his own Secret Service detail pressure him to wait on the conference until he is airborne on NEACP. The E-4B was awaiting his arrival at Andrews AFB and the first of HMX-1’s helicopters is just touching down on the south lawn. Reluctantly, Reagan agrees and is hurriedly rushed to the elevator.
0322 Zulu– Romanov’s news polarizes the Politburo, predictably. His supporters praise the general secretary for fulfilling his promise of bringing the war to an honorable conclusion. His opponents, on the other hand remain skeptical and rightfully so. Vladimir Dolgikh congratulates Romanov and then reminds him that the war is not yet over. A ceasefire needs to be agreed to. Romanov then informs the Politburo that he is awaiting a response from President Reagan on the hotline and Foreign Minister Gromyko is ready to start the process towards negotiations immediately. Dolgikh is pessimistic and KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov silently concludes to himself that Romanov is not being entirely open and honest about what is taking place.
0325 Zulu– The E-4B lifts off from Andrews Air Force Base with President Reagan and a handful of his senior advisers on board. Once airborne, the heavily converted 747 command plane wheels southeast towards airspace over the Virginia Capes. Reagan contacts Brussels and orders SACEUR to provide a list of target choices for retaliation. He then draws up his response to Romanov’s initial hotline message.
Author’s Note: Sorry for cutting this one short, but time became an issue today. Next post will be up Sunday evening and will include a hearty helping of details and information about the tactical nuclear strike on I Netherlands Corps in Northern Germany.